Diablo 4 Season 1: Best Barbarian Build For Leveling

If you're dreading the thought of leveling a Barbarian during Diablo 4's Season 1 update, this off-meta build might just be what you're looking for.

Diablo 4 Season 1 Barbarian
Photo: Activision Blizzard

Despite numerous nerfs, Barbarians remain one of the most powerful classes in Diablo 4. However, before you can unleash that class’ full potential, you’re going to have to find a way to get them to Level 50 and World Tier 3. While there is no truly “easy” way to do that, the build we’re looking at today will make that process significantly more enjoyable.

Before we dive into that, though, keep in mind that this is a pure leveling build. It will not get you to World Tier 4 without some serious modifications, and it only utilizes Legendary Aspsects you can find in the Codex. If you’re just looking to get started on your Barbarian journey, though, it will more than do the job.

Diablo 4 Season 1: Best Barbarian Leveling Build - Iron Maelstrom/Walking Arsenal

Diablo 4 Season 1: Best Barbarian Leveling Build – Iron Maelstrom/Walking Arsenal

Skills: Flay, Rend, Rallying Cry, Challenging Shout, Death Blow, Iron Maelstrom

Malignant Hearts: Resurgent Life, The Picana, Malignant Pact

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Key Legendary Aspects: Aspect of Echoing Fury, Aspect of Anemia, Slaking Aspect, Earthstriker’s Aspect, Aspect of Tempering Blows, Needleflare Aspect

Full Skill Tree

Much like Druids, leveling a Barbarian in Diablo 4 has long been a nightmare. Unlike Druids, Barbarians didn’t get a lot of leveling love in the recent Season 1 patch. Leveling a Barbarian remains a slow and often challenging process.

While there are actually several notable Barbarian leveling builds out there, I wanted to find one that was not only viable but…well, fun. That search led me to Iron Maelstrom and Walking Arsenal.

Iron Maelstrom is an Ultimate ability that sees you quickly swap between your three main weapon types to unleash a devastating trio of attacks. It’s an incredibly satisfying screen-clearing Ultimate that feels especially powerful while leveling. Think of it as your “Smart Bomb” pickup in a shoot-em-up game.

However, what really makes Iron Maelstrom powerful is its cooldown time. Not only does it boast the lowest base cooldown time of any Barbarian Ultimate (45 seconds), but you can reduce that cooldown time by one second every time you deal damage after swapping weapons. When played correctly, that cooldown reduction ability allows you to have Iron Maelstrom active for every major fight.

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That brings us to Walking Arsenal. This often overlooked Key Passive ability grants a universal damage bonus when you swap between your various weapons. Not only does that buff feed into what we’re already trying to do with Iron Maelstrom, but it encourages us to take powerful weapon swap-based Legendary Aspects like Earthstriker’s Aspect and Aspect of Tempering Blows.

How are we triggering those weapon swap effects, you ask? Well, most Barbarian builds don’t have to worry about this, but you can actually assign weapon types to many of your attack skills via the Skill Assignment menu. In this case, Flay is our Dual-Wield attack, Rend is our Two-Handed Slashing Attack, and Death Blow is our Bludgeoning ability.

So the basic rotation for this build is to start with Flay, attack packs of enemies with Rend, and then finish those weakened enemies with Death Blow. If Death Blow kills an enemy, it resets that ability’s cooldown and allows you to keep your weapon swap rotation going for as long as you’d like. Though you eventually want to find the Legendary Aspect that grants Death Blow an additional base charge, a little practice makes it relatively easy to keep it active 90% of the time. By doing so, you’re not only maintaining the Walking Arsenal damage buff but ensuring that you can use Iron Maelstrom a couple of times every minute.

Why Flay and Rend? Well, it’s mostly because Bleed effects tend to be very powerful for leveling Barbarians. Those Bleed effects also enable some additional Legendary Aspects synergies that enhance our survivability and overall damage output. Lunging Strike and Hammer of the Ancients (or possibly Upheaval) offer an interesting alternative to that package, but I find that Bleed is too good to ignore in the early parts of the game.

We should also talk about Thorns. While Thorns can be a little gimmicky from time to time, they really do offer a lot of free damage during the leveling process. If you’d prefer to roll without them, though, you can instead spend those Thorn points on weapon swap Passives, or even the Ultimate Tree Passives that add enhancements to different weapon types.

I’m also going with two Shout abilities with this build for the simple reason that Shouts are absurdly powerful. Challenging Shout is the obvious choice for any Thorns package, though you can replace it with War Cry if you’d rather not bother with Thorns. You can also replace Rallying Cry with War Cry, though I found that Rallying Cry’s Unstoppable effect was simply too good to pass up in the early parts of the game.

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Unfortunately, Barbarian’s early Malignant Heart options aren’t great for this particular build. Grab what you can when you can, but don’t expect to find any secret synergies during the leveling process.

Like most Barbarians, this build is slightly more dependent on the right Legendary Aspects. The good news is that some of the better Legendary Aspects for this build are all found in the Codex. With a little dungeon farming, you’ll have this strategy up and running in no time.

Ultimately, I found that this build offers one of the best combinations of speed, power, and fun of all the leveling Barbarian options. It’s a little outside of the current meta, but once you unlock Iron Maelstrom, you’ll be glad that you took a chance on it.